Zoom was silent after my co-worker said, “We should sing Happy Birthday to David.” Seeing a need for leadership, I came close to the computer camera and counted down on my fingers: three, two, one. And across Zoom rang out the most discordant Happy Birthday you ever heard. There were as many keys, speeds and volumes as participants. A few seconds after the song begun, I realized my sound was still muted. It was bad—even my “glass half full” outlook on life couldn’t blame our disastrous performance entirely on internet lag.

This painful rendition of Happy Birthday was embarrassing. And I personally felt the blow more deeply as I was responsible for “conducting” this disaster. The birthday boy questioningly said, “It’s the thought that counts?” and shrugged off the event.

As I reflect upon the ministry events or “songs” of 2020, I have to say that subpar, painful and discordant are more accurate descriptions than I would like. But let’s stop looking behind us and instead turn our hearts to creating a beautiful symphony of ministry in this new year. As Psalm 98:1 says: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!”

Steps to a Ministry Symphony

  1. Learn to direct from the Master

In the best of times, we need God’s direction and leading in our lives. But for me personally reflecting on some ministry lows (like my testimonial vespers where I had lined up six speakers, but only had three people attend, speakers included…) I am aware more than usual of my need for God’s wisdom.

As I head into a new season of Pathfinders, youth events, and summer camp, I fall on my knees and pray Solomon’s prayer: “Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well” (1 Kings 3:9 The Message). The first step to ministry success is studying under the master director, God.

  1. Recruit orchestra members

In this time of isolation, it is tempting to pull a rock star solo act. With limited social interactions, it’s easy to assume everyone is disinterested and unreliable. And honestly, it is faster and easier to just do ministry on your own. A one-man band in need of no support…but that is not how God designed His church.

God called the church to be a body of believers. 1 Cor. 12:21 warns, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” God has designed and gifted His church to work in collaboration with each other. This means that the song will be incomplete if people are missing. As directors, let us cast the vision of team ministry and remind everyone that they are needed in this orchestra!

  1. Choose the right music

A third-grade teacher announced to the class that they were starting a chime choir. Excitement filled the air and one little girl raised her hand to ask, ”Can we play Hallelujah (Handle’s Messiah)?” The teacher winked and said, “Let’s learn Ode to Joy first.” Ecc. 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything  and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

Like a music teacher, a ministry leader is responsible for helping set the direction for the group. Taking into account the intended audience and the group’s skill level, a wise director selects pieces that are challenging, interesting and achievable. Whatever your Handle’s Messiah dream may be, start today by mastering Zoom renditions of Happy Birthday.

A Ministry Leader’s Prayer for 2021

God, recently I have struggled in directing ministry. I ask for your wisdom! Help me not rob your people of their calling by trying to do everything on my own.

As I work toward the ministry dreams you have put in my heart, show me how to start with the basics and build from there. Thank you for listening to my heart!